Tourism management, university, trainings and pandemic challenges

Youth, trainings, job market, an interview to Barbara Antonucci, director of the Master’s degree course at Roma Tre University in Rome in Languages, Intercultural Communication and Tourism Management.

1.   As the coordinator of a master’s degree course at the Italian University Roma Tre aimed at tourism, what new professional skills are emerging as qualifying and innovative for the sector in which young people could invest?

The Covid-19 marked an unprecedented setback for tourism. Months (almost a year now) of travel restrictions, lockdown periods and telecommuting have transformed the very idea of travel. What used to be taken for granted (visiting a museum, catching a plane or hugging a friend) has acquired a new value and led to a ‘new normal’.

The need to stay at home (in order to respect protocols or for fear of contracting the virus) has pushed many people towards online platforms. The way of thinking about tourism and of doing tourism has changed. In the months of lockdown or limited travel, people visited places through their computers and this is a very important fact to take into account.

The pandemic has therefore led to an acceleration of the digitisation process and all those who work in tourism, or who will work in post-covid tourism, will have to acquire technological tools to communicate with travellers, to modulate new travel offers, to promote a destination. I therefore believe that everything related to digital processes represents a professional outlet. Addressing one’s training to the acquisition and management of digital media represents, in my opinion, an opportunity: learning to use data analysis tools, for example, is necessary to be able to observe how the user/consumer/traveller moves and to understand which are the most effective communication strategies.

Learning to analyse data (e.g. user engagement on online platforms to understand which destinations or attractions have generated the most interaction, etc.) or training in Big Data Analysis represent opportunities for me.

In addition to this, the post-Covid-19 tourist will pay more attention to health safety aspects, is likely to go to establishments that provide touch-less experiences and clear measures on sanitation. Acquiring know-how on these aspects (robotics, computerisation of processes, etc.) could represent an added value.

2.   Where do you see the greatest risk for the tourism sector in the light of the pandemic that has slowed down if not stopped all activities, and what do you think would be useful to facilitate a restart? Where do you see a strong point?

I see the greatest risk for destinations that used to base their economies on high tourist flows and foreign tourism.

Focusing on local tourism and domestic tourism are currently the only opportunities; the product must therefore be adapted to the Italian traveller, at least in this initial phase.

I see the opportunity in the possibility of moving from quantity to quality: focusing a lot on slow tourism, spiritual tourism, niche tourism, off-season tourism, experiential tourism and, of course, on sustainability.

An important impetus could be training on Guest Experience, training young people on the importance of welcoming and involving the guest and ensuring a memorable experience.

When a destination is very busy, the risk is that there is little attention to the guest. After the pandemic, every foreign tourist who comes to Italy will be welcomed in a different way, I’m sure…

3.  How does your Master’s programme help to create a concrete connection between your students and the world of work?

The mission of our Master’s course is to put professionals in the sector, who are able to bring new and updated content, and students in training into direct contact with each other. Through lessons of a very practical nature and interaction with the experts who come into the classroom (alas, virtual, for now) we aim to impart knowledge, notions, but above all experience (human and professional).

4.   Do you think that specific skills are needed to work in the tourism sector? If so, which ones?

The sector is so broad and versatile that the skills and professions related to the tourism industry seem to be endless.

Over the years I have noticed that what the job market is looking for is knowledge of foreign languages, an excellent command of Italian, skills in the use of IT tools, notions of economics and skills in tourism organisation and technology. Perhaps these are the basic ingredients to then go deeper and move towards the various professions linked to the tourism industry.

5. Are there any activities within your Master’s programme that look at the opportunities promoted by the European Union in terms of planning, also in the light of the new 2021-2027 programme?

We have active Erasmus agreements for student and lecturer mobility. At the moment the Master’s degree course is not involved in any specific projects. However, I and some lecturers on the Master’s course are working on a research project for the European Parliament.

6.   Advice for people in training?

Never stop pursuing your passions and never lose your curiosity. Making your passion your job is an achievable goal! Studying, reading, learning (and of course travelling) are essential at every stage of your life.

 Once you have graduated, you need to continue with your education, find all possible ways to acquire new knowledge and look for new stimuli. Growing within a profession does not only mean acquiring seniority in the role but also acquiring new professionalism to advance your career.

Barbara Antonucci is professor at Roma Tre University, Department of Languages, Literatures and Foreign Cultures where she teaches Translation Studies. Besides researching and writing on her specific field of research (linguistic/translation studies), she is the coordinator (since 2017) of the post-graduation course Lingue, Comunicazione Interculturale e Management del Turismo (Languages, Interculturality, and Tourism Management), a 1-year Course which gathers around the topics of Destination Management (inbound and outbound tourism), cultural tourism, sustainable tourism, BIG DATA analysis, analysis of statistical data, hotel management, tourism economy, tourism legislation, digital storytelling, experience tourism, niche tourism, etc..

In her 4-year activity as a Coordinator of the Course on Tourism, she has devoted much energy in creating a solid relation between the main players (both private and public) of the Tourism Industry and the university. She has organized more than 30 events aimed at discussing different topics related to Tourism.

She participated to the research project “Inclusive memory. Promozione e sviluppo di una memoria comune e inclusiva attraverso percorsi innovativi di didattica museale” (Promotion and Development of a Shared, inclusive Memory). Coordinator: Professor Antonella Poce (Roma Tre University). She is also a Member of the Scientific Committee for the realization of the Strategic Development Plan for Tourism for the city of Rome, promoted by the former Councilor for Tourism of the City of Rome Carlo Cafarotti.

On the topic of COVID-19 emergency, she has organized conferences focused on the impact of the emergency on a) Hospitality and Mobility (24th June), b) Guest Experience (23rd June), 3) Meeting industry (17th June) and 4) Italian economy (4th and 11th June).

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